Research Assistant: Understanding Human Behavior in GamesSummer Course

DIS Summer - Research Assistant - Understanding Human Behavior in Games
Major Discipline(s)
Psychology, Computer Science, Media Studies
Location: Stockholm
Lab & Research Session

At the Games & Society Lab at Uppsala University, Joshua Juvrud takes an individualistic approach using psychological methods to understand better how different game players (with different personalities, traits, and experiences) interact with various game mechanics, and are in turn affected by game experiences. Research questions and findings are therefore highly relevant for both developers of games and digital media, as well as psychologists, sociologists, and health scientists. As a researcher in the Games & Society Lab, you have the opportunity to work with digital and physical games (e.g., video games, board games, LARPING) in an experimental context using research tools such as eye-tracking and psychophysiological measures to answer questions related to human behavior. Participate in research seminars, conduct experiments with games, and work alongside leading researchers.

Research topics may include:

  1. Learning. The information that influences attention and subsequent learning may include other sensory inputs, cognitive processes, emotion or emotional responses, or prior experiences and future expectations. Understanding these influences on attention may help us to, in turn, be able to predict, based on eye movements, in what ways the player is experiencing a game. By associating eye-gaze patterns with measures of player expertise, skill, and enjoyment, we can use eye-gaze to understand and predict player experiences. For example, how do skills developed as a musician affect learning and performance in a game. This research is informative for understanding not only learning a game and its mechanics, but also how that learning transfers to new games, new contexts, and even to learning situations outside of the game (such as motor ability).
  2. Social perception. Using eye-tracking methodology, we measure fixations, gaze direction, scanning patterns, and pupil dilation in order to understand individual differences in how people perceive various components of art and design in gaming, including characters and environments. This is extremely informative for game design, but also for understanding how individuals are learning and responding to digital media. With this knowledge, we can improve game design in order to assist in positive learning experiences for individuals.
  3. Prosocial and antisocial behavior. We examine how children and adults view and then consequently interact with a game, the community within the game, and how those experiences influence prosocial and antisocial behavior both within and outside of the game. We integrate state of the art psychology tests with game design research in order to learn more about how people are affected by games. This unique combination allows an individualistic approach and focus on how different gamers (with different personalities, traits, and experiences) are affected by various game mechanisms. Using eye tracking techniques further allows a new perspective by linking individual characteristics to the microstructure of attention and decision-making during the game and relates this to game mechanics and altruistic outcomes, and looks at long-term consequences for their moral compass and social actions throughout life.

Research Assistantship Hours

You will spend 180 hours directly engaged in research, together with 20 hours in co-curricular activities, during your RAship. You will arrange a schedule with your mentor which will allow you to complete per week an average of 22 hours of lab-work, 10 theoretical hours of reading and writing, and 3 hours on Swedish culture and language to complement your research and provide context for your time abroad (35 hours in total per week). The research will take place at Uppsala University, ranked one of the top universities in the world, in the city of Uppsala. As a guest student at Uppsala University, you will have the unique opportunity to engage in student life in Uppsala, such as meeting and interacting with other students and attending student activities. Please note that approximately 8 hours per week will consist of commuting between Stockholm and Uppsala by train (2 hours back-and-forth total per day). There may be peak times in the research process where all Research Assistants are expected to spend a few more hours – and then possibly a few less another week – to reflect the individual research project and process. The total hours may vary, to some extent, according to research opportunity and expectations of your mentor.

Course Expectations 

In this course you will participate in the entire research process, from study conception to writing up your findings. However, it is possible that the research project you will be working on is ongoing and some aspects of the research design have already been laid out for you. You will be expected to assist in the research design of an experiment to various degrees, You will be expected to assist in designing an experiment to various degrees, and be responsible for data collection, analyses, and writing. By the end of the course you will have knowledge and experience in each step of the scientific process, as well as academic writing in the form of a complete manuscript. The majority of your work will be group work, working with your classmates and potentially lab members on specific research projects. Teamwork and communication skills are therefore essential. Although you are a research assistant, you will be expected to treat this course as an opportunity to learn what it means to be a primary researcher. This means you will be expected to organize your time with both supervised and independent hours of work, organize with your team members, meet deadlines, and to make decisions and to critically reflect on them.

Field Studies: Culture & Language

As a complement to your summer research, you will meet other research assistants every Wednesday, together with faculty from the DIS European Humanities program, for a 6-week introduction to culture and language in Stockholm. You will deepen your intercultural understanding through these weekly field studies focused on local culture and language. Humanities faculty from DIS will introduce you to various aspects of Swedish culture, provide you with the opportunity to learn some key terms in the language, and offer a chance to discuss the cultural experiences you are having while researching in Scandinavia. The field study-based culture and language component of the course is graded pass/fail and comprises 5% of your final research assistantship grade.

Related Discipline(s)

This summer course would also be of interest to the following discipline(s):
Child Development, Sociology


Joshua Juvrud

DIS Summer Faculty

Ph.D. in Psychology (Uppsala University). As a research psychologist, his work has focused on the ways that novel techniques in research (eye-tracking, pupil dilation, virtual reality) can be used to assess how children and adults perceive and interpret people, emotions, and actions. Josh focuses this research in two fields. In developmental psychology at the Child and Babylab in Uppsala, he seeks to understand how children learn about their world and the social cognitive development of face perception and socialization processes such as gender, race, and ethnicity. In games research at the Games & Society Lab at the Department of Game Design in Visby, Gotland, his work examines the psychology of people, their actions, and emotions in game development, player engagement, learning, and immersion to understand better how different game players (with different personalities, traits, and experiences) interact with various game mechanisms and are, in turn, affected by game experiences. With DIS since 2020.